There has been a huge focus recently on decarbonising homes throughout the UK, and the government have set out their plans to reduce CO2 emissions in the country. The UK government have committed to cut all carbon emissions by a whopping 78% by 2035, and decarbonising homes is just one part of their grand plan. Over the next few years, there are going to be a lot of changes coming into force in order to protect our planet from climate change.
Decarbonising homes is crucial to meeting the government targets for CO2 reduction. The average house in the UK emits 2.7 tonnes of CO2 each year, just through heating the property. The UK’s 29 million homes account for 14% of total CO2 emissions in the country, and this needs to be dramatically reduced for the government to reach their targets. The home decarbonisation challenge is a huge one and something that all businesses, homeowners and leaders need to get behind, in order for it to be a success.
Decarbonising Heat in The Home
Heating homes is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases in the country and decarbonising the heating industry is essential. We rely so heavily on heating, for warming our homes, cooking meals and washing clothes. The only real way to cut down on emissions from heating is to choose a more sustainable option, but that poses many challenges. Natural gas is still the most predominant heating source for homes on the grid, and roughly 85% of all homes are connected to the gas grid. Unfortunately, there is not a straightforward solution to decarbonising heat in houses, and a tailored approach for each building is the most effective option.
Building stock in the UK is one of the worst in Europe for energy efficiency. While our new buildings and houses are meeting new zero-carbon standards, it is still vital that existing buildings are addressed. 85% of all existing buildings will continue to be occupied in 2050, so decarbonising these is critical. Innovative solutions for insulation are needed to reduce energy consumption in the home, and a move to more renewable energy sources is crucial.
The Debate of Hydrogen Homes
There has been a lot of discussion over the use of hydrogen to heat homes and reduce CO2 emissions. Hydrogen is readily available in the natural world, and from a consumer point of view, a hydrogen home would operate in basically the same way. The challenge comes when we begin to consider the infrastructure of the gas grid and how realistic it is to switch over to hydrogen. Moving all homes to hydrogen supplies is a massive undertaking, and all appliances, gas lines and properties would need to be serviced for hydrogen use. Not only that, but hydrogen production on such a large scale has never been done and could pose new challenges. Hydrogen production is also energy-intensive and incurs heavy use of electricity and water, impacting its sustainability.
The Rise of Renewable Electricity
The only sure way for the government to meet targets is to encourage new and existing homes to reduce their energy consumption and switch to renewable energy. Renewable energy is any kind of power that comes from natural sources, including the sun, wind, water and biomass. One increasingly popular option for renewable energy in the home is solar power, which uses the sun to generate electricity. Solar panels can be fitted to individual homes, and they are also used on large scales across the country by energy providers. The infrastructure for renewable electricity already exists in the UK and could be used in the efforts to decarbonise homes.
There has also been a massive push in wind power generation in recent years. The UK in particular are making a lot of use out of this type of renewable energy supply. As of May 2021, there were 10,961 wind turbines across the UK, contributing to 25% of the nationally supplied energy, with a total capacity of over 24.1 gigawatts, which is enough to generate enough power to millions of homes a year.
The Challenge We Face
The challenge comes because most heating and cooking in homes use gas, and making the switch to electrical appliances is a huge change. We can use renewable electricity to heat homes, cook food and power other appliances, but the majority of homes will need to revolutionise their heating systems, cooking systems and more. New technologies such as heat pumps, induction hobs, electric ovens, and electric vehicle charging are all helping pave the way for decarbonisation in the UK.
The design industry can play a critical role in decarbonising homes across the country. We are here to help develop new efficient products that use renewable energy as opposed to unsustainable options. At 4D Products, we are specialists in designing electronic and industrial products for a wide range of uses, including heating homes and cooking appliances.